Why Camp In The Backyard?
Camping in the back yard can be a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors with fun activities while building memories for the next generation that your whole family will enjoy. Backyard camping takes less preparation and camping experience than camping trips to a national park, and you can still spend time outdoors and enjoy nature with your family right out your back door!
We have prepared a list of great backyard camping ideas that will help you to hone your game before your next camping adventure.
Picking A Camping Site
Perhaps the most important decision to make is in picking your backyard campsite. You’ll want to find a level site that’s large enough for pitching your tent for the night so that you have a comfortable place to set up shelter.
If you have an area that is smooth with gravel, mulch, or a level grassy area, that will be an ideal location to set up your tent. Bonus points if you can choose a spot that’s not too far away for those late night bathroom breaks!
Once you’ve selected your camping site and have set up your tent, the next critical decision to make is where you’ll set up a backyard fire pit. If you don’t already have a built in brick or stone pit, there are a number of options to choose from for that campfire ambiance to enhance your night under the stars.
If you prefer a wood fire, for the time-honored tradition of teaching your kids how to build a fire, you can opt for a simple metal ring to contain the campfire in. If a smokeless wood fire appeals to you, consider something like a Solo Stove which burns hot and fast, but keeps smoke to a minimum. If you or a family member is sensitive to smoke, this might be a good option for you.
For those looking for the most simplicity and flexibility with your campfire, a propane fire pit might be what you’re looking for. You can place a propane fire pit anywhere that you like and move it later without marking the ground where it was set.
Make sure to consider night time bugs like mosquitoes and take the necessary precautions to make sure you are bug free!
You can also adjust the heat and light put out by the propane fire simply by turning a knob to allow more or less propane to flow to the fire pit. At the end of the night, when you are ready to turn in, with a propane fire pit you can simply turn off the propane and head into your tent to sleep. There’s no need to douse it with water or watch for the last of the embers to burn out!
Some other ideas to set the mood for your backyard campout are to hang Christmas lights or solar string lights by stringing lights between two trees or from your back door to another point in the yard. The light glow from the solar lights will give just enough illumination to create a fun, cozy atmosphere while preserving the night sky to stargaze with your family. You could also set up a few tiki torches, which can double as insect repellant if you use citronella oil to light them.
If you have terra cotta pots and tea lights, you could also set up some ambient lighting using those around your yard or on your patio table to help create a peaceful, relaxing glow. Another fun option that kids will enjoy is to get some glow strings or necklaces with glow sticks to wear while playing in the backyard.
Such a simple thing, but just enough out of the ordinary to make your backyard campout extra fun for the young ones!
Just because you are sleeping in the great outdoors doesn’t mean that you have to rough it on your backyard camping trip. A proper backyard camping air mattress can make or break a good night’s sleep. Consider investing in air mattresses or cots to elevate your sleeping bags off the ground and help yourself enjoy your camping trip in your backyard.
Laying a yoga mat below your sleeping bag is another option, if you’re not likely to be bothered by sleeping on the ground itself. Sleeping bags will help keep you warm and cozy, and young kids will enjoy bringing their favorite stuffed animals along for the night as well.
If you have a favorite pillow or other sleeping accessories, bring those out to your camping bed with you to help you enjoy a restful night’s sleep. The nice thing is, if you fail to plan ahead, you can just skip inside and get what you need.
Backyard Camping Foods
There’s no better time to practice camping recipes than on your backyard campout! Everyone thinks of roasting hotdogs over the campfire or cooking burgers on the grill, but what about elevating your camping menu by meal planning for your campout?
Perhaps you can add a variety of toppings to your campfire roasted hot dogs, such as chili, cheese, relish, or even something more adventurous like bacon! What if you replaced the standard hot dogs with sausages or a vegan carrot dog?
Do you love to grill up a great burger? What if you tried making your own hand-formed patties or mixed ground beef and ground pork for a fresh flavor to the basic burger? You can offer a variety of toppings like fresh tomatoes and lettuce, slaw, or even add a fried egg or peanut butter for a gourmet burger in your backyard.
Another option that the kids might love could be grilling up mini burger sliders. Everyone could fix these mini burgers up as they please, making the most of all of the topping choices by dressing each one a little differently. The possibilities are endless!
While you are grilling out, you can add more to your grill than just burgers. You could also grill up vegetables, potatoes, or even fruits in aluminum foil to enjoy fresh, new flavor combinations that you might not cook up in your home on a regular basis. Grilling pineapple can be a warm, sweet treat, or grilling up jackfruit to make a barbecue is an excellent vegetarian cookout option as well.
What could be more fun for your camping dinner than to enjoy a mixed cocktail or mocktail around the fire? Your backyard campout is a great time to try out new recipes. Have you ever tried making a Cape Codder? All you need is cranberry, vodka and a splash of lime to make this refreshing and simple cocktail.
Or for a non-alcoholic option you can mix up a pitcher of strawberry or raspberry lemonade to have a refreshing, cool mocktail to enjoy in a mason jar while relaxing in the backyard. Since you’re not far from your kitchen on this campout, it’s the perfect time to test out new recipes and find new favorite drinks, just in case you need to run back inside for an ingredient you might have missed.
For younger kids, having a few juice boxes for them to enjoy alongside everyone else’s fun drinks will make the evening extra special.
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One of the fun parts of cooking on your campout is all of the desserts you can make over the campfire. If you have a pie iron, you might try making some hot, gooey desserts over the fire. One simple option is to make chocolate chip cookies in the pie iron, using a roll of pre-mixed chocolate chip cookie dough.
If you are feeling more adventurous, you can make individual cherry or apple hand pies using a can of pie filling and crescent roll dough to create sweet, gooey treat that the whole family will enjoy!
Speaking of sweet, gooey treats, what’s a backyard campout without making s’more over the open fire? All you need for this classic treat are graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars.
Roast your marshmallows over the flames until they are perfectly golden brown and gooey in the middle, then place the marshmallow between two graham cracker halves with a piece of chocolate candy bar in the middle to enjoy one of the most memorable experiences of every camping trip.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can choose a chocolate bar with nuts or caramel or peanut butter filling for a whole new flavor combination! If you or a family member has any dietary restrictions, there are even gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan alternatives of the simple s’mores ingredients available so no one has to be left out of this time honored tradition.
While cooking over the fire or on the grill is an exciting part of the camping experience, having quick and easy snacks available are nice to have for your campout too. One fun idea is to mix up a batch of trail mix to munch on.
You can really include anything you like in your trail mix, but some popular ingredients are a protein like peanuts, almonds, or cashews, something sweet like raisins or chocolate chips, a salty addition like pretzels, and another crunchy treat like M&Ms or yogurt-covered candy drops. If trail mix is a special camping treat for your family, creating it together can be part of the fun!
While you are sitting around the campfire at night, you might enjoy drinking hot chocolate while telling spooky stories or singing songs around the campfire. You can get individual packets of hot cocoa mix to mix with hot water or milk, heated over the campfire or on the grill, or you could melt chocolate bars into a cup of warm milk for a unique alternative to the standard hot chocolate mix.
Another fun snack to enjoy on your backyard camping trip is campfire popcorn. It’s simple to make, and mesmerizing for kids to watch as the kernels pop right before their eyes! To make campfire popcorn you’ll need a 10-12” cast iron skillet, 1/2 cup popping corn kernels, 2
Tablespoons vegetable oil, heavy duty aluminum foil, and salt for flavoring. Simply add oil and popping corn kernels to the pan, cover the pan with aluminum foil leaving a little space for the popcorn to expand, but firmly crimp around the edges of the pan to trap the steam inside.
Once the fire is hot, place your pan over the flames on a cooking grate. With a heavy duty oven mitt, carefully shake the pan back and forth every 30 seconds or so until you hear the kernels start to pop. Once they begin popping, continue shaking the pan back and forth until the popping slows down to only 3-5 seconds between pops and remove the pan from the heat. You can then carefully remove the aluminum foil and enjoy, salting to taste.
Backyard Games And Activities
Part of the fun of a backyard campout is in the activities you do before sleeping under the stars. You might choose to play classic games of baseball, kickball, badminton, bocce or croquet. Maybe a newer backyard game that can be played with teams would be more up your family’s alley such as corn hole, ladder ball, or a backyard ring toss game.
If board games are more your family’s style, you might try playing a camping-themed board game like Trekking the National Parks instead.
Craft activities are also a fun pastime that can build family memories together. You can combine your time in the great outdoors with an activity like pressing flowers. After going for a nature walk and collecting wildflowers or leaves, you can press them to make cards, bookmarks or other projects and hold onto the memories of your campout for years to come.
Another fun activity to do while sitting around the campfire or relaxing on your campout is to make God’s Eye crafts. These are simple and only require popsicle sticks and yard to weave beautiful designs.
If you want to help give direction to exploring nature together, a backyard scavenger hunt is an excellent way to sharpen observation skills while appreciating the great outdoors. Make sure you prep with bug spray before going into the woods or tall grass, and then see what fun things you can find in your own backyard!
There are also loads of fun lawn games that you can pick up to play with the kiddos. These games are a fun way to tire out the kiddos so they will be ready to sleep when the time comes.
As dusk begins to fall, another great game to enjoy outside is to play a game of flashlight tag. Each player runs around the yard trying not go get caught in the beam of the flashlight held by the person who is “It”.
When someone gets caught by the flashlight beam, they become “It” and take over the flashlight as the game continues. This is also a great way to help burn off energy before turning in for the night and retiring to your tent to sleep.
If you’re looking for a low-key activity for after the sun goes down, if you’re in an area where fireflies come out at night, you might try catching fireflies in a jar to create your own natural lanterns.
If fireflies are not out where you live, you can also enjoy the quiet, clear night and stargaze. There are a number of apps as well as websites and books that can help you map out the constellations in the night sky above you, depending on where you live and the season that you are in.
It does not require any special equipment as many constellations, planets and features of the moon are visible with the naked eye. So just lay out some yoga mats and enjoy the heavens with your family members.
Can you spot the Summer Triangle, Orion’s Belt, or the Big Dipper? Find the North Star and look for what phase the moon is in. The conversations surrounding what you discover in the night sky can ignite curiosity that can continue exploration long after your campout as well!
Of course, you might also enjoy relaxing together while watching a movie on an outdoor video projector. You could even choose a summer camp or camping themed movie like The Parent Trap or The Great Outdoors. Aside from the projector itself, your outdoor movie set-up could be as simple as hanging a screen or a bedsheet on the back of your house.
You might also enjoy telling ghost stories around the campfire or singing together, either a cappella or perhaps someone in your family plays an instrument like a guitar or harmonica that they can accompany your voices with. It really doesn’t have to be or take a lot of advance planning to enjoy quality time together at your backyard campout.
No matter what your perfect backyard campout looks like, you can design a getaway in your own backyard that is just perfect for your family. Whether games and activities, food and drink, or simply relaxing in nature are your priorities, you can do it all right in your own backyard. What will your camping staycation look like?
Grainne Foley grew up in Ireland and spent summers caravanning around Europe with her family. Now, as a wife and mother of 2, she spent 5 years traveling the USA as a full time RVing family. She is passionate about travel, and helping others who are considering the RV lifestyle. She has created dozens of helpful RVing checklists which are available throughout the website, and has curated hundreds of simple, flavorful meals for families on the go.